The Gotthard Panorama Express: Through Switzerland By Land & Lake


Today we welcome our first guest author, Monica Houghton of From Here to Sunday, to share her recent trip on the Gotthard Panorama Express (formerly known as the Wilhelm Tell. Get ready to be super jealous.)


Impressionen des neuen Gotthard Panoramazuges aufgenommen fuer die SBB, am Montag, 3. Oktober 2016 auf der alten Gotthardstrecke. (KEYSTONE/Dominik Baur)Brand New Name, Same Stunning Window Views

The Wilhem Tell Express, now known as the Gotthard Panorama Express, is an EPIC route through the central and southern areas of Switzerland. Actually, what part of Switzerland isn’t epic? I went on this day trip last Fall when I was exploring Switzerland for the first time and it was an incredible experience! Over five hours, this route passes through a vast array of landscapes offering an opportunity to see both the Italian and German sides of Switzerland. This experience is different than other scenic Swiss train routes, as it includes both a boat ride across Lake Lucerne with views of Mount Pilatus and a train ride through the famed Gotthard TunnelThe 15-kilometer Gotthard Train Tunnel between Göschenen and Airolo was opened in 1882 and was internationally acclaimed as a pioneering achievement for its time. Both the train and boat rides offer first class experiences, so not only are the views incredible but the experience on board is as well.

Rail Europe Tip: the Gotthard Panorama Express operates on Saturdays and Sundays from 14 April to 22 October 2017. It operates daily from 1 July to 22 October 2017 (similar schedule in 2018 & beyond).

Gotthard Panorama Express

My friend and I started with the train from Locarno and made our way north, ending in Lucerne. We got 1st class tickets on the panoramic train*, so we’d be able to take advantage of the views from every possible seat. If you’ve never experienced a panoramic train, you’d be in for a treat, especially in Switzerland. Everywhere you look there is natural beauty! The train makes its way through quaint village towns and leads up to the famous Gotthard Tunnel.

(*Rail Europe tip: this route is totally covered by the Swiss Travel Pass, and offered at a discount with a Eurail Pass that includes Switzerland!)


The Gotthard Tunnel

Gotthard Panorama Express

The coolest part about the tunnel is that before you enter, you pass through small tree-lined towns and then when you emerge from the tunnel you’re embraced by breathtaking views of The Swiss Alps. They show off their wintery side and stretch for miles of unbelievable scenery. Sitting in first class was a dream come true, the seats are cushy and comfortable and my friend and I could easily stretch out. We also hopped back and forth to see views from the left and right sides of the train but it didn’t matter where we sat, the windows were always filled with sweeping vistas. This certainly isn’t a train ride where you need to bring a book! We had our cameras ready at all times and were in complete awe of the landscape. Going through the tunnel was also exciting as we weren’t sure what to expect when we got to the other side.


Lake Lucerne

Gotthard Panorama Express

The train ride went by so fast that before we knew it we arrived to the town of Flüelen, situated on the southern tip of Lake Lucerne. At this point we transferred to the boat that went across Lake Lucerne, ending in the city of Lucerne. The boat ride was also a first-class experience, we were seated on the top section and even greeted with a glass of wine! The boat offers elegant dining services (appetizers, entrees and dessert) and large windows that look out onto the lake. Onboard you enjoy beautiful scenery of the charming towns that border Lake Lucerne. Given I’m not really one to sit still, I took advantage of the views on the boat and went outside numerous times, even though the time of year we went was chilly. The boat ride was so luxurious and also smooth that it made it easy for me to walk around.


Gotthard Panorama Express Route

Gotthard Panorama Express route

(Image credit)

Overall, we really enjoyed our experience on the Gotthard Panorama Express. It was fun to switch it up and take both a train and boat ride to get from one side of Switzerland to another. Since the entire route is a first-class experience, you get to enjoy a taste of luxury while looking out onto absolutely incredible views. The highlights of this experience for me was going through the Gotthard Tunnel and seeing Switzerland’s countryside, mountains, and lakes along the way!


(Rail Europe tip: if you want to take a ride on the Gotthard Panorama Express route, you can find more booking information on our website. If you’re interested in taking more than one train ride through Switzerland, then the Swiss Travel Pass might be the best bet — it covers trains, buses, boats, AND entry into over 500 Swiss museums!)

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